Feast will help fund humble feasts

Published 12:11 am Saturday, August 18, 2012

There will be a feast at St. Mary’s Friday night.

The menu for the fourth annual Bayou Feast fundraiser includes jambalaya, blackened fish, seafood gumbo, shrimp and grits, cold boiled shrimp, Mardi Gras cole slaw, New Orleans French bread and bread pudding. Terry Kyzar and his volunteers will spend a good part of the coming week putting together the food for the approximately 300 people expected to enjoy dine-in or take-out.

And while those who buy tickets will indeed enjoy a feast, they’ll be helping to fund a much more humble feast for the less fortunate among us. Two dollars from each $25 ticket will go to St. Mary’s new rice and beans ministry.

Rice and beans might not sound like much to get excited about in the shadow of gumbo, boiled shrimp and bread pudding. But if you’re struggling to feed your family, three pounds of rice and two ounds of pinto or red beans can stretch a food budget a long way.

Beginning in September, on the third Saturday morning of each month, volunteers in the church will distribute the staples to anyone who shows up, no questions asked. The program is modeled on one begun by Trinity Episcopal Church in Clanton in 2005. Church members committed to the ministry promise only staples, but are hopeful that they’ll be able to add extras to those basics to help fill hungry bellies between pay checks, or when Food Stamps run out.

I count myself among the very lucky ones. It’s been a long time since I had to stretch a food budget, but we made many-a-college meal on Rice-a-Roni or peanut butter sandwiches.

Rice is considered a staple in 70 percent of the world’s population. When dried, it can be stored for years. A cup of uncooked rice doubles when cooked, and can become the basis of oh-so-many different meals. Beans can, too.

Having those staples on hand in bulk should be a blessing to the 19 percent of the Covington County households who are below the poverty level. According to U.S. Census estimates, 2,283 households, or about 15 percent of all households, received Food Stamps in the past year.

The Rev. Cindy Howard of St. Mary’s couldn’t be more excited about this ministry if we were giving away gold coins. Even though the first distribution is about a month away, she is busy getting closets altered for food storage and encouraging members to contribute to the ministry. She has a heart for helping, and has inspired many of us to be excited about distributing simple rice and beans.

A feast to fund a feast. It’s a good thing, any way you look at it.